U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced last week that Vermont Law School will receive a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to establish a National Center on Restorative Justice.
Restorative justice creates opportunities for people who have been harmed to have a voice in the response and outcome of that harm, and for people who caused harm, it gives them an opportunity to make amends and be accountable for the harm they caused. Vermont Law School has identified four core areas that the Center will support: the creation of restorative justice curriculum, community initiatives focused on education of incarcerated individuals, research and data collection, and collaboration with key partners.
The Center will work closely with the University of Vermont, the University of San Diego, and other partners, and will focus on engaging criminal justice professionals, community members, educators, and social service providers and broaden their understanding of the justice system and restorative justice.
Robert Sand is the founder of the Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law School and former Windsor County prosecutor and Stephanie Clark currently serves as the Center director. Both will be active in the National Center and Vermont Law School is expected to hire for additional positions to support the work of the new Center.
“For too long our national response to harm and conflict has been to remove and isolate people from their communities believing it ensured public safety,” said Stephanie Clark. “We now know it doesn't ensure public safety. Instead, it pulls apart families and communities, is a barrier to economic opportunity, and breeds more violence, discrimination, and isolation. By educating and training leaders in restorative principles and approaches, offering educational opportunities to people who are incarcerated to provide them an economic future, and by building compassionate and connected communities, we will change the national dialogue and response to crime, and how we choose to live and work together.”
Leahy, the Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has led a several-year effort to establish and fund the Center. Leahy also has been a leader on criminal justice reform as a leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “To address the problem of mass incarceration of people in our country, we need to fundamentally rethink our approach to the justice system,” said U.S. Senator Leahy “By establishing a national center that will focus on engaging with the community, including our incarcerated population, we can begin to do just that. Vermont is an incubator of sound ideas, and the approaches to restorative justice education and training at Vermont Law School and the University of Vermont make this a fitting collaboration to host this new, national center. We want the new center to be a generator of workable solutions, and a catalyst for real change.”
The new national center, based at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, will be a leading voice on educating, training, and engaging with the future leaders of the U.S. justice system. The Center is expected to open this summer.
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